Megan Epler Wood has long been a believer in the power of creating a new, more sustainable world through travel. Her career has been dedicated to proving just how powerful the travel economy can be for good.
With Planeterra, Megan has seen the potential of working with travelers, and travel companies, to galvanize a real ethic and understanding for supporting long-term solutions in travel destinations worldwide.
Megan started on this path in 1990 when she founded The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), the oldest and largest non-profit organization in the world dedicated to making ecotourism a tool for sustainable tourism development worldwide.
Megan established her own consulting firm EplerWood International in 2003, which allows her to engage in profound ways with local people and sustainable tourism development in some of the poorest countries in the world, ranging from Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and India to Honduras and Brazil.
Megan also currently lectures at Harvard University Extension on environmental management of international tourism development via a global, televised classroom.
What Planeterra’s doing
Planeterra began focusing on women’s small businesses in 2005, by supporting a women’s weaving cooperative in Ccaccaccollo, a small village near the Sacred Valley in Peru. Most G Adventures groups visit this community to learn about weaving, hand-spinning and to participate in weaving demonstrations. Over 10,000 visitors now visit the cooperative annually. Visitors buy hand-loomed goods from the village every day, and Planeterra has supported the women to develop a strong cooperative, raised funds for their main community building that was wiped out by floods, and provided local training to improve the quality of their goods.
More recently Planeterra has chosen to support women’s micro-enterprises in Northern Kenya, to help local people survive severe droughts. In 2011, we raised $50,000 in two days to support the building of two water stations to help desperate refugees flooding across the border from Somalia. Now we are helping families with a long-term solution. Every donation of $360 provides a business group of 3 women a seed capital grant, business skills and training. This creates a circle of support that can feed, clothe and cover the costs of schooling and medical care for an average of 15 children. We have launched this effort by providing seed capital for 8 small women’s businesses in 2012.
The industry gives women many opportunities that would not be available to them otherwise. This can be accelerated by the financing of more targeted training programs for women in hospitality, tourism development, tourism management, tourism policy and other ways to help women move from low level service jobs to tourism management. Financing women’s enterprises, such as Planeterra’s project to support a woman-owned Inca Trail biodegradable soap enterprise in Peru is another way to empower and help women to help themselves.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: Mark Harada